Moved by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert—“( ) After section 4A, insert—“4AA Compatibility with other provisions in the Mental Capacity Act 2005Nothing under section 4B of, or Schedule AA1 to, this Act permits the authorisation of any arrangements for enabling care or treatment of a person that give rise to a deprivation of liberty which conflicts with sections 1 to 4 of this Act, or a valid decision to refuse care or treatment by the donee of a lasting power of attorney or a court-appointed deputy or contained in a valid advance decision to refuse treatment.””
My Lords, I start by declaring my interest as chair of the National Mental Capacity Forum. It is in that role that I have been able to have meetings over the summer in Wales with several people from different professional groups across all sectors.
I hope that the House will bear with me as I try to explain why I have tabled the amendment right at the front of the Bill. The key word on which I want to focus is “conflicts” in the third line of the amendment. The reason is that the Bill adds to the Mental Capacity Act, and the principles of that Act must be paramount. In some of the meetings that I have had, I have been worried that there is a view almost that the Bill is free-standing rather than that it is completely connected to and falls out of the Mental Capacity Act.
So whatever we do, and whatever legislation goes forward, we must be aware that first of all the presumption of capacity is being overturned, and that it has to be overturned on evidence that it is for a specific decision at a specific time. People may need support to make their own decisions. Indeed, when somebody has impaired capacity they do need support, because it may be that their capacity can be maximised and they could take that decision. I have been concerned that speech and language therapists have not been a core part of best interests assessors because, when people have expressive and communication disorders, a speech and language therapist can be absolutely essential. It seems strange to have them acting almost as translators for other people who are then best interests assessors or for other clinicians when they have the skill set themselves and want to be trained. Of course, there are also people such as the independent mental capacity advocates.
People need time and a calm environment—but, for support to be provided, they also need somebody who knows them. That might be a parent, a friend, a relative or their child. But it takes time, and we need to recognise that the time taken in supporting somebody is not going to be given by a health professional or somebody perhaps running a care home who is under pressure of time and lots of other responsibilities. So we have to interpret what we are doing in that sense and maximise the ability of the person to be empowered.
Of course, the Mental Capacity Act also allows people to make unwise decisions. We need to think about how we manage harm to others under the Bill, when people may have very specific areas where they lack insight and capacity and are at particular risk. That applies particularly, I would suggest, to those likely to commit sexual offences in society because they do not have the ability to have control when they are in a situation of temptation. They may need to have some restrictions on their liberty to protect others.
When capacity is not there, we are left with best-interest decisions. That consultation must include P. There are amendments that we will come to later that stress that the cared-for person must be involved and at the top of the list, and I have my name on one of those amendments. That consultation must include everybody concerned with P’s well-being, which brings me on to the latter part of my amendment, on where there is conflict with a valid decision to refuse care or treatment, which is probably self-explanatory. I will just say, however, that in some care settings it can be very difficult for people—for example in an emergency department—when somebody is just brought in, to know whether a decision to refuse care or treatment is valid, how it was drawn up and what was considered in the process.
The others who must be consulted are those who hold lasting power of attorney or are a court-appointed deputy for somebody who did not have anybody, so the court appointed them. We must recognise that, when somebody chooses a person to donate a lasting power of attorney to, it is a very difficult choice; it is somebody whom they trust deeply. The court-appointed deputy also has a duty to know the person well. But the person with lasting power of attorney may well have known this person for years and may have seen them through deteriorating health up to the point when the lasting power of attorney needed to be activated. I am concerned that, if the lasting power of attorney or the court-appointed deputy are not really given appropriate prominence in our process, we could find that the careful choice of a trusted person becomes effectively downgraded in the system when we are trying to consider what is in P’s best interests. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for using the term “P”. It is shorthand for the cared-for person.
The other part of that consultation—for which I hope we will give due credit to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker—is the concept of an advance statement of wishes. Those of us who took through the old Mental Capacity Act—I say “old” because it was some years ago now—will remember the debates when the noble Baroness suggested that we needed a balance between an advance decision to refuse treatment and an advance statement of wishes. The more that I have spoken to professionals across all parts of health and social care, the more I have been struck by how the concept of an advanced statement of wishes has not been used adequately. That becomes important because we are talking about the care plan that will be the basis of our process. The care plan must be the way that somebody who lacks capacity for decisions is to be cared for, and that care plan must be flexible and must meet their needs, so the advanced statement of wishes can become very important in shedding light on somebody’s wishes and feelings.
The last of the five principles is of course that we must go for the least restrictive option. We are talking about liberty-protection safeguards, and language is important. If you talk about deprivation of liberty—that is, about taking away—the focus that we need to have is that if we are restricting liberty it is in order for somebody to live as freely as possible within the restrictions of their disease or whatever is limiting their life.
There are two questions that come out of those safeguards, which the Bill says must be necessary and proportionate. Necessary: why is it necessary? There must be evidence for why it is necessary. Proportionate: what other ways have been considered? In other words, what other least-restrictive options have been considered? I hope that in any assessment we will expect people to be quite clear about them.
All this revolves around Article 5 and Article 5 safeguards. It is important to remember that of course it is the liberty and the security of the person that are affected in Article 5. The current situation in relation to lasting power of attorney or a court-appointed deputy is that they cannot veto a decision for deprivation of liberty safeguards. We have to be quite careful about that. I had a discussion about this with the Public Guardian, who, fortunately—although I did put him a bit on the spot and it was in a telephone call rather than a face-to-face meeting—agreed that we should not downgrade the importance of the sincere lasting power of attorney: the person who is trying to do the best for them. The Public Guardian of course has a duty to investigate where an attorney is not behaving appropriately. So where perhaps there is a warring family, the Public Guardian may investigate.
If we allow that a court, an attorney or a court-appointed deputy must be consulted, we must accept that they can object to a proposed arrangement. If they do, I suggest that it is appropriate then to appoint an approved mental capacity professional. If that is not resolved, the matter should go to mediation. Only after mediation has failed should we think about court proceedings. The reason is that I am worried that otherwise the Court of Protection could be swamped by objections early on.
There is an important pilot that has been planned for the Court of Protection between some people in the legal profession who want to try to set up a pre-Court of Protection mediation service. This seems to be very helpful because, at the end of the day, if a court authorises a deprivation of liberty, that must be the last word. The court should have the last say.
I know that I have taken a bit of time to explain this amendment, but I have been worried that we have to put the best interests of the person at the forefront of all our thinking in the context of the whole of the Mental Capacity Act and also that we must consider the least restrictive option. I have also been worried that safeguarding and deprivation of liberty have become muddled in some places, and that in some authorities the safeguarding lead and the mental capacity lead are the same person.
I have been discussing this with general practitioners. I declare that I was on the safeguarding toolkit working party of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Safeguarding is different from liberty protection safeguards or a deprivation of liberty, but sometimes in people’s thinking they get muddled up and unclear, and it becomes particularly difficult when you are talking about people who are cared for in their own home. I am sure that we will come on to that later, but I would be interested to know whether the Minister agrees that the general thrust we should be taking is that the care plan must be appropriate for that person and constantly revisited, and that we must be able to make sure that all the views of those people who have the welfare of the person at heart, and who have been perhaps chosen by that person to speak for them when they can no longer speak for themselves, are respected.
During the briefing we had with the Bill team and the Ministers, my notes tell me that the first clause is a key change to the new regime, and that it is concerned with the portability of deprivation of liberty. I understand that the noble Baroness’s amendment makes sure that Section 4B—on the deprivation of liberty necessary for life-sustaining treatment or vital act—and Schedule AA1 are compatible with the provisions set out in the rest of the Bill and that they do not conflict with a valid decision to refuse care or treatment. The noble Baroness raises some important and substantial issues right at the beginning of the Bill and raises issues of conflicts which will need to be resolved.
Amendment 20 in my name comes from paragraph 15 of proposed new Schedule AA1 in the Law Commission’s draft Bill, quoting it exactly. It prevents the responsible body authorising arrangements for the cared-for person to reside in, or receive care or treatment somewhere, if those arrangements conflict with a valid decision by a donee of a lasting power of attorney or of a deputy appointed by the Court of Protection. As I say, the wording is exactly the same as that in the Law Commission draft Bill.
Under deprivation of liberty, a deputy and attorney may object to any deprivation of liberty and effectively block it, pending an application to the Court of Protection. I can see no obvious reason for excluding this from the Bill. The Government claim that it is already in the main provisions under the original Act—in Section 6(6) —but this is only the case where the basis for the deprivation of liberty is in “best interests”. If the basis for DOL is risk to others, that would not necessarily be the case, and so for the avoidance of doubt it is important to include this clause. If we do not, the risk of litigation on this point is probably quite high.
Deputies and donees should be able to refuse a deprivation of liberty, so this amendment seeks to ensure that the views of those donees and deputies, who have been appointed by the cared-for person to make the decisions in their best interests—as was eloquently outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—are given appropriate weight with regard to where the cared-for person resides for care and treatment.
I am pleased to say that this amendment and what the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, enjoys widespread support from the organisations who have found the time, even under the pressure we have all been under, to say that they support this. They include Mencap, VoiceAbility, Mind, the National Autistic Society, Liberty, Age UK, Sense and many others. The amendment looks at the clash or overlap between the different regimes that govern this area of law. I must ask why the Government did not adopt the Law Commission formulation. The Minister should be aware that I will return to that theme throughout Committee, because the Government seem to have cherry picked the Law Commission report, and some of the most important safeguards of liberty seem to have been omitted or watered down by the Bill.
My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. I will pick up on two points that have been raised in the amendments, particularly the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay.
At Second Reading, I too raised my concern about the status of attorneys with lasting power of attorney, particularly over wellness and health. These are some of the most personal decisions. In some ways, I am more concerned about that than about attorneys who have power over the money. Money always seems a rather black and white matter—it either is or is not a good idea. But there are many shades of grey over health and, in particular, well-being. I should like to link this with decision-making and the other point in the noble Baroness’s amendment, about the need for qualified speech and language support to interpret and make sure there is a clear understanding of what “P”’s interests really are.
When you look at certain people with certain disabilities, particularly those with communication disorders—such as autism, learning disabilities and, of course, dementia—it is not always the case that they cannot express a view. But getting to that view—unless it is a real, life-threatening medical emergency—takes quite a long time. First, particularly those with autism and a learning disability, the individual has to be comfortable and familiar with the person asking the questions, however experienced. It is no good sending a stranger in for a five-minute cup of tea and a quick chat and thinking that person will then disclose their innermost feelings. How many of us would?
The point is that getting to that view might often be about something known for many years by someone who has been appointed as an attorney with a lasting power of attorney. I believe the two things are linked in those cases. We know from the Alzheimer’s Society that such a lot can be achieved for the quality of life and well-being of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s by giving enough time, when asking a question, to allow the person to process the information before they give an answer. Brain function is very different in these people. They need time to process the question they are being asked and to process how they will communicate the answer; it can take quite a long time.
This point was picked up quickly by the Alzheimer’s Society which says, for example, on a very simple matter, that when people with Alzheimer’s in residential care homes are asked whether they would like tea or coffee and do not immediately reply, they are processing the question and that can take a long time. They might prefer coffee today, but because they had tea yesterday, the answer may be quickly assumed—“I expect you will have tea, you always have tea”—before they can even process the information and the way they will communicate the answer.
How much more complex it is, and how much more time is needed when people are being asked more complicated questions about potentially life-changing decisions. This cannot be left only to someone with speech and language experience, important as that is, and such people need to be experienced. But people with a lasting power of attorney, who might have held an LPA for many years, and who know the individual extremely well, are in a prime position to act as an interpreter when important decisions are being made.
I believe my noble friend is aware of my view on this already. Those of us who served on the original Bill and its pre-legislative scrutiny many years ago know that a lot of thought went into the existing Bill on LPAs. To have one part of a Bill give rights to an individual through their attorney but then to diminish that in another part of the Bill, through amendment, seems not only wrong but seriously, morally wrong. I hope my noble friend will address this point when he replies to this amendment.
My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 20, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and I give my strong support to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. I pay tribute to the good sense that the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has just brought to our debate.
A theme that will run through our discussions and will come up again when we come to advance decision-making is that we must have more respect for those who have been trusted by an individual to make decisions on their behalf. We must encourage people to make plans and to think about the future, and we must ensure that those who make the very wise decision to appoint a lasting power of attorney are respected. As we have already heard, we do so in other parts of the Bill, and we should not remove that when we come to the question of deprivation of liberty. We must incorporate it in the general scheme of things. It seems absolutely crucial that we respect decisions made by people who have power of attorney and by the court’s appointed deputies. I strongly support the amendment.
My Lords, I start with an apology, as I have not spoken on the Bill before. I thank, in particular, POhWER, the organisation of which I am a patron, for alerting me to the Bill and to its concerns, as well as the concerns shared by a wide range of groups, including Liberty, Age UK, Mencap and so on.
As other speakers have outlined, it is essential that we get this absolutely right, because we are talking about potential deprivation of liberty. According to those organisations, people with dementia or a learning disability are at risk under the proposed changes. Therefore, I speak in support of Amendment 1, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and Amendment 20 in the name of my noble friend Lady Thornton. I believe that this amendment would ensure that the views of the donees and deputies already appointed by cared-for persons to make decisions in their best interests were given appropriate weight with regard to where the cared-for person resides for care and treatment.
I will say no more than that because there are experts on this issue in the Chamber. I sit willing to support but more willing to listen and learn.
My Lords, I apologise for being slightly late. I was taken by surprise at the swiftness with which we concluded our previous business.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, for many of the points that she made in her speech. It took a lot of work to get the concept of an advance statement on wishes into this legislation, and I, like her, regret that it has not been more widely adopted or accepted, particularly by the medical profession. She will know that when the Select Committee reviewed the legislation, one of the biggest disappointments was the extent to which the Mental Capacity Act had not been understood by the medical profession. She will perhaps remember that when representatives of different parts of the medical profession come to talk to us, they began by saying that in an A&E department it is extremely difficult to work out somebody’s advance decision. We knew that when we passed the initial legislation, but that legislation was not meant solely to take its lead from that; it was meant to apply to a whole range of matters just within medicine. It is a shame that the medical profession still relies on a very conservative interpretation of the existing legislation and takes a read-out from emergency situations when it really should not, as there is plenty of time to discuss with the person what is happening and to understand their previously stated wishes and feelings.
I am glad that the noble Baroness has raised this issue. She is right that at the heart of the Bill is a fundamental change from the Mental Capacity Act. There will no longer be a whole series of decision-specific assessments of people who lack capacity, and that is not something that I object to. Over the last few years while this legislation has been in place, we have quite often found people being subjected to unnecessary assessments. It is quite clear that when somebody has a medical assessment for advanced dementia, say, they will not have the capacity to make the same decision, even though they go to live in a different place. I accept that it is possible to make a decision of a lack of capacity and to carry that forward throughout a person’s care. What I am not clear about, though—given that people will be subject to fewer assessments, and therefore be less likely to have changes in their conditions brought to light—is the extent to which that will interplay with somebody’s statement of advanced wishes. I would rather like it if the Minister, in his response, could talk about how that will work.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. The safeguards on liberty and safeguarding have been thoroughly confused by many people. That is fundamental. Whether we turn this around from safeguards against deprivation of liberty or safeguarding the liberty of somebody, I do not think that anything I have seen in the Bill has yet addressed that fundamental misunderstanding. In fact, in some cases, it probably compounds it. I want to put that on record as we discuss the many issues the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has introduced so well.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for her amendment and also the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornton and Lady Murphy, for their amendments. I am delighted that the noble Baronesses were able to make it on time so that we could start on our deliberations of what are clearly very important issues.
The purpose of these amendments is to clarify that a liberty protection safeguard authorisation cannot override a valid decision to refuse care or treatment by the donee of lasting power of attorney or a court-appointed deputy or contained in a valid advance decision to refuse treatment. The comment that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made at the start of the debate, about conflict and avoiding conflict by recognising valid decisions where they have been made, was very important. I hope that all noble Lords know that the intention of the Bill is to enhance the role and agency of those deprived of their liberty and those with an interest in the care and welfare of that cared-for person. That is why this debate on the first grouping of amendments is so important.
This debate gives me the opportunity to clarify and confirm that the Bill does not allow a decision to be made that conflicts with that made by a donee of a lasting power of attorney or a court-approved deputy’s valid, best interests decision. I am glad of the opportunity to do that. Section 6(6) of the Mental Capacity Act already provides for this, and the Bill does not change that. Therefore, an authorisation under the liberty protection safeguards could only be given if it was in accordance with a valid decision—namely, one that is authorised in the lasting power of attorney—by the attorney or deputy.
The Bill also does not change the current position regarding advance decisions to refuse treatment, and those will remain an important part of care planning. I absolutely recognise the important role that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and others in this House played in introducing that. I assure all noble Lords that there is neither the intention nor action in the Bill to water down the power and validity of those in any way. If a person has made a valid advance decision to refuse medical treatment, that treatment cannot be given and it would not therefore be possible to deprive someone of liberty in order to provide it. We intend to give further explanation of the legal position in the code of practice. I hope that that answers some of the key issues raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay, Lady Thornton and Lady Murphy, in their comments.
Those comments were echoed by my noble friend Lady Browning, and she is quite right to discuss the importance of support for those with communication difficulties so that they are able to enunciate the kinds of decisions and indications of future treatment that would adhere to their own wishes. We will return to this issue later in Committee, particularly when we get on to the issue of IMCAs—the advocates—but she is right to reiterate the point made in the proposed amendments that those acting on behalf of the cared-for person, whether they are the family, have an interest in care or have been formally appointed to do so, are, in the end, responsible for taking those decisions on behalf of that person, and their decisions should be respected, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, pointed out.
The fundamental question that underpins these amendments is: why is the Bill not explicit on these issues when, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, pointed out, the Law Commission’s Bill is? Because there is no change in the current position, there is therefore no reason to outline what is already the case. Nothing is changed about what is already in the Act by what is being proposed through this Bill. Therefore, there is no need to reiterate what is already the case and will not be changed. I hope through the course of this debate that we have aired this issue. It is one that the Government agree with and, in the way that the Bill is structured, I can confirm to the Committee that there is no change in the status quo about the validity of those decisions.
With those reassurances, I hope that the noble Baroness is prepared to withdraw her amendment. I recognise that there is great concern, not least among many of the campaign groups, service providers, commissioners and others who are implementing these rules and laws every day, and they need to know that there is consistency. As we move between now and Report, I am more than happy to meet with noble lords and others to discuss these issues and make sure that we can give every reassurance so that they can be sure that the law as it stands today has not changed and will not change as a consequence of this Bill.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his reassurance, which is quite clear. There can be no doubt that the views of the holder of the lasting power of attorney or the court-appointed deputy must be taken into account and respected. Given that the principle behind this Bill is the importance of good care planning, I am glad to have that assurance. Of course, it is the person who has lasting power of attorney who will be in a good position to oversee the ongoing care of the person to detect whether things have improved or got worse and whether some restrictions could be lifted and things changed.
I can provide a word of reassurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and I hope that it is not misplaced. I have challenged the deans of medical schools, with my forum chairmanship hat on, on two occasions now. I have also rather sneakily gone in to different clinical consultations semi-incognito—it is difficult to be completely incognito—and I have been impressed by the changes that I have seen in the last couple of years, particularly in care of the elderly settings where there was respect for the need to empower someone’s decision-making. I hope that, if things were revisited, they would now see a difference.
We talk a lot about liberty protection safeguards. With the confusion between safeguarding and deprivation of liberty, I wonder whether that is the right word and whether we should be talking about “liberty protection assessments” or something else. I worry when we look at the domestic setting that safeguarding where there is a problem and the role of a liberty protection safeguard—which is to enhance the living of the person to live as well as they can within the restrictions of whatever has happened to them—more than overlap. They will always overlap a little, but they are becoming a little muddled in the system.
Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Debate on whether Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, I was not able to be present at the Second Reading and I have recently been apprised of concerns by the Residents & Relatives Association about care home residents without mental capacity who, they believe, are at risk of being let down by some of the proposed changes in the Bill. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, mentioned that the timing of the Bill had taken many by surprise and added to that the rather pick-and-mix approach of taking some aspects of the Law Commission proposals but not others, which means that extensive scrutiny is well deserved. Unfortunately, the scheduling of the first day of Committee so soon after we came back means that many of the briefings from key stakeholders have come too late and we have not been able to translate them into amendments. So I thought it might be useful if I used a debate on the first clause to discuss some of these issues.
In particular, let me make it clear that I do not disagree with the aim of the Bill. I support its general intent, and therefore the aims of Clause 1, but there are some real concerns, particularly with the Government’s decision to depart from the Law Commission proposals regarding the role of care home managers. There are some real concerns here: first, the conflation of care planning with significant deprivation-of-liberty decisions; secondly, the burden and risk being shifted to providers; thirdly, the inherent conflict of interest being placed on managers and providers in the design of the new system; and fourthly—this came up at Second Reading—the capacity and capability of the sector to implement the proposals.
These concerns emanate from the decision to move responsibility to form the new assessments from local authorities to the care provider. This means that, in effect, care managers will become responsible for organising and conducting the assessments necessary for the liberty protection safeguards, when they are responsible for that person’s care. The Department of Health’s argument is that all it is doing is taking the Law Commission’s proposition that care planning should be at the heart of the new model, but the Law Commission did not say that these assessments should be done by care managers. In any case, if we are talking about a preventative approach, and if the aim is for assessments to take place prior to admission, which I think it is, one has to ask how it can possibly be appropriate for the care home manager to do that job.
The reality is that care home managers will have the responsibility to make crucial decisions about restricting a resident’s freedom that were previously made by independent people. The assumption seems to be that the resident’s best interests will generally coalesce with that of the provider, but we know from experience that that is not necessarily so. The Relatives & Residents Association, which has a helpline that receives lots of calls from anxious relatives and friends, points out that currently, families can be in conflict with the care home when the resident and their next of kin or lasting power of attorney may wish to move elsewhere, about who may or may not visit, and about whom they may or may not wish to see. This sometimes results in relatives or friends being restricted or banned, or residents being given notice to quit by the care provider.
These examples alone ought to give rise to concerns about what could be described as draconian powers now being given to care home managers. The responsible body makes its decision having regard to the report by the care manager and supporting evidence, but there is no requirement that I can see to have regard to other evidence. Although the responsible body must be satisfied that the care manager has been through the process in the Bill, the impact assessment suggests that this will be merely a desktop exercise. I would be glad if the Minister could confirm that, or say just what it is that the local authority can undertake. At the moment, on the face of it there is a massive conflict of interest with no external checks if the manager reports that the person is not objecting. That would, for instance, open the door to collusive relationships between the home and relatives.
There is then the question of training, which was raised at Second Reading by a number of noble Lords. We have already heard that there were problems with people in the field understanding the requirements of the existing legislation. What is now being put forward is, in my view, in many ways a more demanding and wide-ranging process, certainly in the care sector. Despite the statement in the Government’s impact assessment that they have engaged with service providers, it is noticeable from the briefings we have received in the past two days from many care providers that they too are very concerned about the responsibilities being placed upon them. The consultation seems to have been selective, in that the people who were consulted do not appear to speak on behalf of the sector. Again, it would be useful to nail this one as we go through our debates.
The impact assessment assumes a zero cost to homes and that half a day’s training will suffice. Surely the Government cannot be serious about that. Are they really saying that these new responsibilities can simply be subsumed into the everyday business of care homes at the moment? That surely gives the lie—the concern is that the deprivation of liberty in relation to people covered by this amendment Bill is not being taken seriously enough.
Over the weekend I read a briefing from a national group of regional deprivation of liberty safeguard leads, who should know a thing or two about this. They point out that, as we know, the provisions relating care homes were never part of the original consultation, and that at no point have local authorities had an opportunity to road test how taking on such a significant assessment role would work in care homes. They say that this is all the more important because the Bill leaves the detainer determining whether the conditions for detention are met, and again, this potentially creates a conflict of interest and risks a return to the state of arbitrary detention.
In summary, it is not appropriate to give care home managers these new and inappropriate responsibilities for vulnerable and often isolated residents for the following reasons. First, they clearly require the care home manager all too often to be judge and jury about decisions in which they were involved, and in which the viability of whose business may depend on income received from detained patients. Secondly, the state of the sector surely gives rise to concern. I know that there are some fantastic care homes, but one in five has no registered manager in post, despite this being a mandatory requirement, while turnover is estimated to be a massive 27%—and they need only half a day’s training. That is simply not believable.
I question whether care managers have the background, time or training to carry out this onerous role. I also question why care home residents, who are surely part of the community, are being treated differently from peers living in their own homes who may be equally vulnerable. This is worth a more general debate, although I recognise that there are amendments to come. However, the Government need to think again and at least explain in rather more coherent terms why they think it is reasonable for care home managers to carry responsibilities which have built into them clear conflicts of interest.
My Lords, I will resist the temptation to rerun Second Reading, but I thank all the organisations which have provided us with informative briefings as well as all the individuals, academics and carers who have done so—you all know who you are.
This rather ugly Gorgon of a Bill matters. It matters to those who are vulnerable and will unknowingly place their future in its hands. It matters to diligent professionals from both the NHS and care services. They do not know it, but it matters to the general population, too—many will become carers one day.
I wish someone had had the courage to tear it up and write a Bill that was clear, compassionate and contemporary—but they did not. Because we care we will spend the next few days in Committee and beyond, trying to make it fit for purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has given us the briefing around which we shape this debate on Clause 1 stand part and for which I thank the Relatives & Residents Association. It covers the role of the care manager, the centrality of the cared-for person and their views, best interests and advanced wishes; an understanding of what deprivation of liberty is, access to information and, indeed, cost.
It is worth mentioning that there are amendments from all over the House that cover each of these areas. Like others, I am concerned about the role of the care manager as assessor. Over the last few years I have met many kind, efficient care managers, both professionally and in my role as a carer. As professionals, they run hotel services, ensure that care needs are met and rosters are filled and deal with people who lack capacity with compassion. But experts in mental capacity they are not and I am concerned that they are given such a key role in this Bill. As chair of a not-for-profit organisation that cares for people with learning disabilities in residential settings, I know how hard it is to do this on the money that local authorities give us.
An efficient home is a full home. The person who determines whether someone should enter that setting or go somewhere else should, under no circumstances, be the manager. The conflicts of interest, no matter what checks and balances are in place, will always be there and that is the same for the private sector, not-for-profit and even, where it still exists—and I believe it does in parts—the public sector. Training and awareness should minimise this but we must be on our guard.
Everyone accepts that the 2005 Act has become not really fit for purpose and that this is a patching exercise. Everyone accepts that DoLS has run its course. Many believe that what we are trying to amend is drafted to save costs and that goes back to the briefing that this debate is based on—people live longer, care costs increase and these processes are not cheap. Can the Minister confirm that these amendments are all drafted to be the most effective way to deliver a better service and not as a cost-cutting exercise?
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, mentioned consultation, which is something that we on these Benches are concerned about. My understanding is that consultation did go on but it was with individuals grouped together—they were like focus groups of care home managers, social workers and so on. There was no consultation of the organisations, the umbrella bodies. I phoned many organisations before putting my thoughts together and tabling my amendments. All of them came back to say that they are going to see the department this week or next week but that they have not spoken yet. I think that is disappointing.
Much as there might be a temptation to scupper this Bill by supporting Clause 1 stand part, I know that it is for now the only alternative. I will do that in the hope that the Minister tells his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that it is barely good enough and that future patching of legislation is not acceptable. The people we are discussing really deserve better.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in his endeavour to raise this important issue about care homes. I know we will return to it. This is a very good example of where I had not really thought about the twin-track approach to raising the safeguarding issue. I understand completely how this came about as an attempt to try to improve on the monstrous bureaucracy of DoLS. This is a very good example of that, to which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, alluded. We have a monstrous Bill at the moment. I remember discussions at the Law Commission with the Royal College of Psychiatrists as to how we might make it more streamlined and reduce costs, which in my view is pretty crucial if we are to target the right people. That led to the production of a process to involve care home managers which, on the face of it, looked as though it would cut bureaucracy.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is very polite about care home managers. I am quite happy to be less polite. Of course there are some good, even excellent, ones. However, the notion that the majority who flit through the system on short-term contracts and training—many of whom come from outside the European Union—can, in half a day, master the Mental Capacity Act, be trained through this process to make a proper assessment and identify people within the meaning of the Act is completely ludicrous. It will not be possible. The costs of that sort of training programme and of rejigging the sort of people who are being appointed to roles to take account of this is quite outwith the scope that the Bill is likely to achieve. It is worth thinking long and hard about both the conflicts of interest and who is being appointed to make these extraordinarily difficult decisions. I support the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I doubt whether we should stop the debate at this point but we will return to this important issue in other amendments.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and his team for their engagement with Members across the House, which has been very helpful. I strongly support the attempt, on the initiative of my noble friend Lord Hunt, to have this clause stand debate.
In the past day or so, I have spent some time looking at advertisements for care home staff and managers. They vary greatly; there is no standard at all. One advert for the role of a care home manager said, “You will assume all aspects of responsibility for your care home and have exceptional man management skills”. A minimum of two years’ experience of managing a care home, with no other qualifications, was the only candidate requirement. Another advert said that there was an opportunity for someone seeking to develop their career who must have a solid residential care background on applying. It said that applicants should have a full working knowledge of CQC requirements, possess leadership and organisational skills, and be either qualified in or working towards an NVQ level 5 in social care management, a QCF 5 or equivalent. It took more of an interest in qualifications and was a bit hit-and-miss on whether the person should be fully trained. It said that candidates should have three years’ experience of social care and it would be preferable if they had some previous management experience.
A third advert offered an exciting opportunity for a care home manager with a view to becoming a registered manager if the applicant was not one already. The skills and qualifications needed were an NVQ level 5 in leadership and management, or to be working towards that. Again, that does not mean being qualified with all the necessary education and training. A fourth advertisement sought candidates with proven home management experience, strong marketing, commercial and business acumen and a clear and thorough knowledge of CQC standards. Your Lordships should note that possessing knowledge of CQC standards came third after marketing, commercial and business acumen.
My point is that this demonstrates that there is no agreed national standard for care home manager training. With this Bill, we are proposing to give them a huge new responsibility that will affect the quality of life of many vulnerable people in our society. This really needs to be revisited. We are taking a big risk with people who have no one else to defend them if we do not start defending them here.
My Lords, to intervene fairly briefly, it is important that we remember that the current DoLS system has effectively fallen over. We have 108,000 people currently waiting to be assessed, so we have to do something. We cannot leave it running so there is an urgency to come up with some way forward. I remind the Committee that, whenever somebody is in a place of care such as a care home, the deprivation of liberty safeguards application—form 1—is a request for standard authorisation and has to be completed and sent in. That form asks about the purpose of the standard authorisation, and for a relevant care plan to be attached. It also asks why less restrictive options are not possible, and other things. So a degree of assessment is already going on at the care home and these forms are sent in. They are then sent to somebody to authorise them.
I worry that, in some of the briefings that we have had, it looks as though the care home manager will be able to authorise in totality, whereas, as I understand it—the Minister may correct me if I have this wrong—the care home manager will still be required to have the responsible body authorise. That responsible body will be able to look—and one would want them to look—at objections that may come forward from somebody. It is to be hoped they will go and visit if they feel there is a discrepancy between the care plan submitted and the original care and support plan that came from the local authority, which may have been involved in the pre-placement assessment that went on.
The idea behind these new approvals is that there is portability: the person may reside in one place, then be moved to hospital, go to outpatients, spend time in hospital and then come back to the care home. Within that portability, however, there is a requirement to review, if the circumstances change. We will come later to amendments that look at discrepancy between the care plan and the care and support plan as submitted. In other words, these are things that should trigger red flags in the mind of the authorising body, rather than the authorising body just being a rubber-stamping exercise, which is, I think, a misunderstanding that there may have been. If it is a rubber-stamping exercise, there are all kinds of dangers in that. Somehow, we have to filter out those people who really need an in-depth assessment and review from those people where the current processes are just burdensome, time-consuming and not contributing to improving their care. That filtering is really difficult. I offer that in the debate at this stage because it is worth looking at these forms, which I hope will be improved because there is not that much room to write on them.
My Lords, I make a brief intervention, primarily to underline the importance of two points that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made when introducing his amendment. Like my noble friend Lady Jolly, I fear we have no alternative other than to carry on and scrutinise this Bill. The reasons for doing something have just been set out very clearly by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, but I retain two really key concerns which I raised at Second Reading.
The first—referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—is that of timing and understanding the relationship with the review of the Mental Health Act. I understand that it is due in the autumn—I am not quite sure when—together with amendments to the Mental Capacity Act, given that both Acts relate to non-consensual care and treatment. It seems that the overlap between the two systems is one of the reasons why the current system is so complicated, and why so many staff struggle with it. Frankly, it is why I struggle with it so much. There must be real concerns that changes to address problems under one system will have unintended consequences for the other. Clarity is needed from the Government over when patients should be subject to one Act over the other, so that, in the words of Sir Simon Wessely, chair of the Mental Health Act review,
“arguing over the framework does not get in the way of delivering the care that the person needs”.
I could go on at length—I will not, your Lordships will be pleased to hear. I have just one more thought on this. In addition to the need for clarity on when the Mental Capacity Act or the Mental Health Act should be used, it is really important that patients do not find that they are deprived of their liberty by both Acts at the same time. There are examples of this happening, particularly when a patient has both a mental disorder and an unrelated physical disorder.
That is my first point. My second point, which was made very cogently by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is about the consultation that is taking place with the sector. Like everyone else, I have received a large number of briefings in the past few days. Frankly, it has been difficult to take them all on board. I have done my best. I was particularly concerned by a survey that was published only a couple of days ago by an organisation called Edge Training. I do not know it personally, I do not know exactly what else it does, but I do know that it was a survey of 900 people and nearly half the respondents were best-interests assessors, with the rest being primarily social workers, health professionals and independent mental capacity advocates. I will not go through what they said, other than to say that there were really very high levels of concern—80% this and 90% that—particularly in relation to the new roles being placed on care home managers, the potential conflicts of interest, plans to charge care home managers with deciding whether it is in a resident’s best interests to have an advocate if they lack capacity to request one, and the lack of a specific requirement to consult the person themselves about a proposed deprivation of their liberty.
My conclusion from all this is that the sort of consultation that should have gone on with the sector for a change such as this, which really has to work—this is not political, it is about something that has to work on the ground and people who do this have to understand it and feel that it does work—cannot have happened to the extent to which I think it should have happened, and that has real importance for the pace at which this can be taken forward and the consultation and implementation timescale.
My Lords, I just want to share the thoughts that I had over the summer, when we had a very long time to look at this proposal. I have been wrapping my head in wet towels looking at this legislation, trying to work out what it is all about, and to answer a key question: why this Bill now? I am still not happy that I have the right answer.
The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, referred to the Mental Capacity Act as a “monstrous” Act—the DoLS part of it. But let us be fair, when the Select Committee did its review, we found that the Act was held in quite high regard; the problem with it was that it was not properly understood and that had caused problems with its implementation. It is true that we said in the Select Committee report that there needed to be an absolute root and branch review of DoLS, but we prefaced all our recommendations for the review of the Act on one other premise, which has been ignored by the Government. We said that one of the reasons that we saw for the failure of the Act to be properly implemented was that there was no central ownership of the Act and no single body responsible for its implementation. The Government have chosen to ignore that. Instead, they have shoved responsibility for the MCA on to the CQC, where it does not get specialist attention. There is nothing like the attention paid to the Mental Capacity Act that there is to the mental health legislation, and yet if it is not properly implemented, people can be deprived of their liberty.
What we asked for in the review of DoLS was that what was brought before us was fit for purpose and compatible with the style and ethos of the rest of the Mental Capacity Act. In his first response to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, the Minister talked about this being an amending Bill. I accept that part of the difficulty in understanding the Bill is that it is an amending Bill. Frankly, it is very difficult to see which parts of the original Mental Capacity Act remain in force and which do not. I put it to the Minister that what has been produced is not what was recommended by the Select Committee. That is important because the chief failure of DoLS is that they are not properly understood by practitioners. Unless we have greater clarity than this Bill affords, we are simply going to compound existing problems. I am sure that that is going to happen if the Government continue to make the mistake that was made before, which was to rely heavily on the code of practice rather than putting important facts in the Bill.
Others have talked about consultation. Given that we had the Select Committee review and the experience of people, such as Mark Neary who tried to stick up for his son, it is regrettable that we do not have a Bill that truly reflects a lot of what came out of that.
One of the key problems that we will talk about in greater depth is that the replacement of things such as the best interests assessment—as I understand it, although there is some substitution of that—with the proposal in the Bill that the decision should be proportionate and reasonable is not anchored anywhere. It is not explained in the legislation and I do not see how professionals seeking to implement it are going to be any clearer than they would be under DoLS. I accept that as a result of the Cheshire West decision referrals for DoLS authorisations have gone up to a point which is not possible to handle. What is not clear and is critical—this is the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—is who decides whether somebody is in need of active support and safeguarding and who decides whether the conditions under which somebody is living do not require any further review or intervention. That is a fundamental weakness in this Bill.
The Bill makes sense in terms of cost-cutting, but like many other Members of your Lordships’ House I do not understand why many of the safeguards that the Law Society proposed needed to be retained have not been retained. If the Minister can explain that, and the strength of the connection back to the principles of the Mental Capacity Act, then perhaps his job in the next few days might be a good deal easier than it will otherwise be.
I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this clause stand part. It was necessary for a number of reasons. I am also grateful for the contributions that have been made because they bear out the reason why it was important to put down this debate. The first reason has been alluded to by many noble Lords and is the very unsatisfactory scheduling of the Bill. It means that noble Lords and stakeholders have not had sufficient time to consider the Bill and all its amendments for today. The vast majority were put down last week, and the Marshalled List became available yesterday. It was difficult for anybody to see whether the tabled amendments probed the Bill sufficiently and made all the improvements that noble Lords deemed worthy of consideration.
There is a lesson here about scheduling: if you have the Second Reading immediately before a recess, a sufficient number of sitting days must be given to allow noble Lords to table amendments and have the necessary discussions with stakeholders and each other. Getting almost 100 amendments tabled from a standing start when the House rose is pretty good going, and I congratulate noble Lords across the House for that. Some of us were emailing each other and the Public Bill Office from the poolside or the middle of fields during the Recess. However, people are playing catch-up, which does not bode well for a thorough-going scrutiny.
I congratulate the Bill team for managing to talk to noble Lords during the Recess, but in some ways they must have had an unsatisfactory time as well because we did not have the full list of amendments until Friday evening. As many noble Lords have said—it is clear from my mailbox too—in the last two or three days stakeholders are also playing catch-up and are expressing great concern about some aspects of the Bill. In a way, the frustration that that has raised is why my noble friend has tabled his amendment to oppose the clause stand part. That allows us not only to mention things that are not covered in amendments but to raise these points.
From my point of view, and from these Benches, depending on what the Minister says in his reply, we might need to raise issues of scheduling and time to consider some of the serious implications of the Bill, and possibly table amendments at the next stage that address some of the concerns raised in this debate—particularly the issue of care home managers. Notwithstanding the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—she may well be right about people understanding the processes in the Bill—that does not alter the fact that we do not know who will authorise or whether it will work.
This links to my second point, which is about consultation. I would like to know where the care home manager’s role in this came from. It happened between the Law Commission draft Bill and this Bill. Suddenly, the care home manager is it, and I think that that might probably have been a surprise for some people—certainly for the noble Baroness, who did not hold back in her views about care home managers. On the consultation issue, it is clear from the Law Commission report that it did extensive consultation, leading to the creation of its draft Bill. There were something like 83 nationwide events and 583 written responses from interested persons and organisations. Some of those events were very significant indeed, with many stakeholders. Where did the issue of the role of care home managers come from? I should like the Minister to share that with us, as he must be aware of the level of disquiet about the expectations and the responsibilities that would have to be assumed by care home managers for the assessment required to authorise the deprivation of a person’s liberty when the person lives in their care home.
I also want to know the view of the CQC on this proposal. What is the view of the care providers, the ADASS and the LGA? They are all key stakeholders in that decision. I should be grateful to have the Minister’s take on the view of those important organisations on this proposal. I could not find the issue among the material circulated by the Minister or, indeed, in the letter he sent, which I found useful and informative.
My noble friend has done the House a favour in raising these issues and allowing a large number of questions to be asked at this stage, which might inform the next day’s discussion in Committee, the next stage of the Bill and perhaps also the discussions that we will need to have in the coming weeks.
I start by agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that of course extensive scrutiny is deserved for legislation of this kind, which we have achieved both at Second Reading and, for those who could not be there, in the second Second Reading debate that we have just had. That scrutiny is obviously reflected in the 100 or so amendments that have been tabled. It is worth using this opportunity, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, did to some extent, to remind ourselves why we are here pursuing this legislation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked why now? Well, in 2014, the House identified that the DoLS system was not fit for purpose and the Government tasked the Law Commission with completing its report into DoLS. It recommended that the current system needed to be replaced as a matter of pressing urgency. I will come on to the point about the discrepancies between the two approaches but, nevertheless, that was its view. The Government stated that we would do this as soon as parliamentary time allowed—part of the issue around scheduling is indeed “when parliamentary time allows”. It is important to use opportunities when they arise to do important things, even if it means that people have to work during the summer or holidays. I realise that that is not always ideal, but the scheduling, for example, of Committee over a long period—and we will then need to think about Report—should give lots more time for these kinds of discussion. I reassure noble Lords that we want to have and are open to those discussions.
The model that we have created is based on that developed by the Law Commission and, like the Law Commission, we want to increase the protection of some of the most vulnerable people in society, to protect their rights, not just in theory but in practice, and to improve access to justice. I confirm to noble Lords that we have worked and continue to work with a range of stakeholders to build on the Law Commission’s model and to produce a streamlined system. “Streamlined” is an important way of describing this, because the noble Baronesses, Lady Jolly, Lady Barker and Lady Murphy, talked about cost-cutting. This is in fact about creating a system that has the effect that we want with the budget that it is given; that is the point. As we know from the backlog, lots of people are being denied access to justice because of a system that is disproportionate in its application. That is what we are trying to solve, so that those cases that really do deserve the highest level of scrutiny are able to receive it. That really is at the heart of what we are trying to do. I emphasise that Nicholas Paines, the Law Commissioner who led this review, said that this Bill,
“will go a long way towards addressing the flaws of the current system and better protect the most vulnerable in our society”.
I would not claim at this point in the proceedings that it is perfect. I am sure that we can improve it, but it is important that we are doing it, that we are doing it now and that it has support from the Law Commission itself.
“appropriate calibration between resources spent on delivery of care and those spent on safeguards surrounding the delivery of that care”.
That is what we are trying to achieve through this process. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, who was quite right to talk about the interaction and interface between the two Acts and how they operate that, while we are taking this opportunity to act now while we can, if there are future recommendations that mean there have to be further changes, we would be open to those. This will not be the last opportunity to make sure that the interface between the two Acts, once the reviews have been completed, could be amended, if that is what is necessary. It is important that we have acted now and that those 108,000 people currently in the backlog will have swifter access to justice—that is the main argument. That is my Second Reading speech summarised and repeated.
From what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, I do not think that he wants to remove this clause, not least because it would remove the new system while not stopping the repeal of the current system, and nobody wants that. At the heart of what the noble Lord spoke about is this focus on care homes, which I think is worth dwelling on. The system has been carefully designed to ensure that there is independence and proper accountability. Care homes will not authorise any applications. That will fall to a wholly independent responsible body—the local authority.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked where the care home role came from. I think it was described by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. Care home managers are already required to make applications and to consider capacity and restriction. Effectively, the new model recognises what they are doing but also allows for a further escalation to put to a responsible body the approved mental capacity professional, where required. That is not the case if it is already required. This is not an entirely new function that has been developed—rather, it is recognising actions that are already taking place and making sure that they are recognised while retaining proper opportunity for escalation as well as independent accountability.
An allied issue, about which the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler and Lady Murphy, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, asked, is training. That is a really good question. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked about this as well, and about the impact assessment. That is an ongoing cost, but we also know that there is a need for training ahead of implementation, which would be an additional requirement. We intend to work with the sector in the coming months to make sure that the support required for implementation, including training, is there. I hope that, in the course of deliberations on this Bill, we will be able to set out a bit more detail to noble Lords of our intentions in this area. I agree that there is no point in creating a new system without preparing those who will be implementing the system to do so properly. If we do not do that, we will clearly risk repeating the failures that we have had historically.
In a further group, we will have the opportunity to discuss the reasons for doing this, as well as the role of the care homes, the arguments and the reasons, the responsibilities, the authorisations, regulatory functions and so on, which is why I have not touched on them here. On that basis, I do not think we should be stopping what we are doing. We have a responsibility to make sure we proceed to fix what is clearly a faulty system to the best of our ability so that those people who are currently being denied justice will not be. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will withdraw his opposition to Clause 1 standing part.
I of course agree that the current system is not fit for purpose. I agree with the Minister and with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and other noble Lords. I agree with the need for a streamlined system, but it has to be the right system. I say to the noble Baroness that one of the briefings that I received was from 39 Essex Chambers, which is pretty expert in this area. It was a very interesting piece by Victoria Butler-Cole which sets out seven changes to the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill that the courts are likely to make unless Parliament gets there first.
We have to be very careful that in wishing to support the Government to get a streamlined process through we do not build in mistakes and errors that, rather like the Cheshire West decision, will lead to the court, and then to further legislation. In her piece, Victoria Butler-Cole says that the Court of Protection has a record of rejecting capacity assessments conducted by consultant psychiatrists with years of training in mental health and specifically in relation to the MCA. The Bill permits care home managers to assess capacity in this context. There is no way that will withstand scrutiny by the court, and there are likely to be even more cases in which assessments of incapacity are overturned as care home managers with little or no relevant training are required to carry out what can be a complex task. That seems to me to be the problem.
I know that this has to be signed off by the local authority. The impact assessment makes it clear that in the vast majority of cases that will be a desktop exercise. That does not fill me with confidence that these assessments will be scrutinised effectively by local authorities which themselves are very hard pressed. That is why I think that, when it comes to the detailed amendments, this is a very important part of this legislation. We need to be very careful to ensure that this is going to work effectively.
On training, the noble Lord has made some very welcome comments, but I refer to the fact that there is an annual turnover of 27% in this sector among the people who are going to have to do this work. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, that I was trying to be polite. This is a very vulnerable sector, with low-paid people who have low qualifications being asked to deal with issues to do with the fundamental liberty of people in this country.
My gut feeling is that it will not do. This cannot be left to care managers. The Government will have to look again at the Law Commission’s assumption that local authorities would do the work. I of course do not wish to prevent Clause 1 standing part of the Bill.
My Lords, I hope that it is permissible for me to rise again. For the avoidance of doubt, will the Minister confirm that I understood him correctly? Is he saying that the role of the care home manager has not changed? I understand that, under the existing law, a care home manager may request that somebody’s capacity be assessed, but that assessment is not usually done by them. That assessment is done by somebody else. Is he saying that that is not going to change? I am sorry, but I think it very important that noble Lords understand what the Minister says.
I understood that the Minister said “escalate”, which means that something changes. Perhaps when he is answering the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, he could also explain the word “escalate”.
The Government may need to think about carrying out some form of assessment of the appropriateness and suitability of care home managers to undertake this task. If that has not been done, perhaps it needs to be done in the next month or so.
In answer to the noble Baroness’s question, the point that I was making is not that the role of the care home manager will not change but that they are not being asked to do something of which they have absolutely no experience or responsibility for at the moment. As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, pointed out, care home managers are already required to make applications and to consider capacity and restrictions, so they already have a role. The distinction is that, as the Bill sets out, the assessments can be made within the care home itself—of course, not by a person with direct responsibility for care. That is one of the issues, of avoiding conflict of interest. In all cases, those will be authorised by the local authority. If there is any reason, through that authorisation, for concern—for example, of conflicting views between the person cared for and their family—then the AMCP, the mental capacity professional, will have the opportunity to decide on the right course of action. That is what I meant by escalate—not that there is a choice of whether to escalate authorisation to the responsible body, as that will happen in all cases, but that there is a further opportunity for consideration by an AMCP if there is any sense of this happening. We will explore in more detail in future groups whether there is a reason for further investigation, including, of course, speaking to the cared-for person, their family and others.
With regard to what is going to be a desktop exercise, the question then arises as to how the local authority will know that there are concerns. On conflicts of interest, it seems that the job of the care home manager is to make sure that their home is filled. There is a fundamentally wrong issue here. The initial assessment will be done by someone with a financial interest in its outcome. It is wrong.
Perhaps I may say that to some extent we are getting ahead of ourselves, because we will explore these issues in further amendments. There is clearly already a system in place, which will continue and will be enhanced, to make sure—whether it is through family members and others with an interest, or, as we have discussed before, through those with a lasting power of attorney—that those who have an advocate working for them are able to register their concerns, objections or whatever it is through the process. So it is not simply the case that the care home manager would be able to wrap up the entire discussion and not let any other point of view be heard—quite the opposite. And, as I said, we will discuss that in further detail.
On training issues, addressing the second point talked about by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, she is quite right. That is precisely why I said that it is important for us, the Government, to explain, on the basis of consultation with the sector, what will be required to make sure that those who will have these extra responsibilities will be able to exercise them properly. We will discuss that outside this Chamber. I know that noble Lords want to make sure that, where there is a proposed change, even if they still require some reassurance about the benefits of such a change, it will be implemented properly. Clearly, that has big implications for training, capacity and so on. So we will take that away and make sure that we are able to provide more detail on it.
Clause 1 agreed.
My Lords, we are moving to the issue of changing “18” to “16” and applying the provisions of the Bill to 16 year-olds. I have four points to make.
First, this amendment is supported by the LGA and the ADASS. Secondly, the GMC is concerned that, given that the Mental Capacity Act applies to people aged 16-plus, excluding those below 18 from the liberty protection safeguards in the Bill may leave an important gap in the liberty safeguards. Thirdly, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has pointed out that case law has established that the parents of children under 16 may give consent to what would otherwise constitute a deprivation of a child’s liberty where the matter falls within the “zone of parental responsibility”, but it has been held that a parent cannot give equivalent consent for a 16 to 17 year-old. It therefore argues that the Bill should be extended to 16 to 17 year-olds to provide them with better safeguards, as they are not served well at present.
Finally, the Law Commission looked at this in some detail. It was part of its remit from the Government that it should consider,
“the position of young people aged 16 and 17 (but not children aged 15 or younger). Most of the Mental Capacity Act applies to people aged 16 and over. However, the DoLS only apply to adults aged 18 and over. There are several legal provisions that permit the deprivation of liberty of children … Under section 25 of the Children Act 1989, a child who is being looked after by a local authority can be placed or kept in secure accommodation in England, provided for the purpose of restricting liberty. The Mental Health Act can be used to detain a person of any age suffering from mental disorder for the provision of medical treatment. Beyond these cases, the deprivation of liberty of a young person can be authorised by the Family Court or Family Division of the High Court under their respective inherent jurisdictions or by the Court of Protection”.
There is of course a complicating factor: namely, that,
“the Strasbourg court has recognised the right of parents—in certain cases—to consent to restrictions placed on their child which would otherwise amount to a deprivation of liberty”.
That refers to the Birmingham case, which noble Lords may well be familiar with.
The consultation that the Law Commission conducted was thorough, and it said that the majority of respondents to the consultation supported the proposal to include 16 and 17 year-olds in the new scheme. Most organisations argued that this would,
“provide consistency with the rest of the Mental Capacity Act, and that in many cases the use of the Mental Health Act and section 25 of the Children Act would be inappropriate”.
The two recommendations from the commission’s report, as the Minister will be aware, were that:
“The Liberty Protection Safeguards should apply to people aged 16 and above”— which would be given effect by their inclusion in the commission’s draft Bill—and that the Government,
“should consider reviewing mental capacity law relating to all children, with a view to statutory codification”.
On a personal note, I have a 12 year-old niece who has severe mental capacity issues. I discussed what will happen to her when she is 16 and became aware that there seems to be a vacuum; there is an issue here which this legislation needs to address. So, in my personal capacity, I hope that we can resolve this issue. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support this amendment. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, has already said, the Royal College of Psychiatrists feels strongly that this would clarify decision-making. There may be issues arising from the fact that when the Bill was being put together we had not yet had the Birmingham judgment, which is why we are not quite there yet. However, having the four regimes that we currently have to choose from for this age group makes it very difficult to make appropriate choices. This would clarify it. It was strongly supported by the Law Commission in its first recommendations, and I support it.
My Lords, I too support Amendment 2 in the name of my noble friend Lady Thornton, and the consequential amendments. I am grateful to her for bringing her personal experience to this and reminding us of the young individuals involved. This amendment and the subsequent amendments are to be welcomed. By including 16 and 17 year-olds, it offers better safeguards to those who are not served well at the moment. The amendment would see 16 and 17 year-olds protected by the LPS. It would simplify the system, would bring clarity and ensure that their rights under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights were therefore protected. For those reasons and many more, I support this amendment and the subsequent amendments.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support this group of amendments. I strongly support bringing 16 and 17 year-olds within the scope of the Mental Capacity Act, and support the proposed amendments to the authorisation and safeguards scheme. I will raise a couple of points, and I would be grateful if the Minister were able to provide some answers or reassurance.
First, clarity will be needed on the role of those who currently have parental responsibility, and how that will fit in with the proposals that are being put forward. Secondly, we need to make sure that there is a fully co-ordinated and joined-up approach across a number of different pieces of legislation. I have already talked about the join-up between the Mental Capacity Act and the Mental Health Act, but I am conscious that, when we are looking at 16 and 17 year-olds, we need to look also at other legal mechanisms that authorise a deprivation of liberty, such as Section 25 of the Children Act 1989, and at how the model dovetails with legal frameworks for the provision of care and support, such as education, health and care plans under the Children and Families Act 2014. So I would ask for some reassurance that someone is looking at the join-up with other relevant bits of children’s legislation.
My Lords, I would like to follow that up. Clearly, the Government accepted in principle that these provisions should extend to 16 and 17 year-olds but then entered the caveat that,
“changes will need to carefully consider wider rights”,
as the noble Baroness has said. The Government said then that they would consider these matters carefully before bringing forward legislation. The question I would like to ask is: how far has that work got, and is there a prospect of seeing legislation in the reasonable future in relation to it, or is this our opportunity? Other opportunities may not come for some time to come. I realise Ministers are reluctant to commit themselves to particular legislation, but it would be helpful to the House if the Minister could at least give some indication of the work that is now being undertaken and when it is likely to come to fruition.
My Lords, the Law Commission supports this and I certainly support the amendment as tabled by my noble friend Lady Thornton. Including 16 and 17 year-olds would offer some legal protection for organisations such as the National Autistic Society, of which I am a vice-president. We do a huge amount of work with young adults and strongly believe that this is important for them—for their work and for their future. This was raised during Second Reading by a number of people—I was one of those who raised the matter. The Minister indicated that he would look at it and, indeed, in a letter from him on
“During my speech I indicated that I would like to reflect on the matter of how the model could fit with 16 and 17 year old young people”.
Perhaps, when he gets up, he will have some good news for us.
I would like to thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornton and Lady Murphy, for tabling these amendments, which seek to apply the liberty protection safeguards to 16 and 17 year-olds in the same way that they apply to adults. Noble Lords have been absolutely right to point out, as they did at Second Reading, that in the Government’s response to the Law Commission report, we accepted in principle that 16 and 17 year-olds would be included in the new liberty protection safeguard system. I know that noble Lords are motivated not just get to get this right in general but also, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said, in relation to specific cases that are known to them, sometimes very close to home. I understand and sympathise absolutely with the desire to do that.
The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, is also right to say that it is something I said I would consider and would seek to bring further news. We are still considering this very actively. What is clear even from this brief debate is that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, pointed out, there are some critical interactions that we need to get right with other bits of the system. These include the role of parents, how the safeguards would apply to looked-after children, and interaction with processes such as the education, health and care planning processes for those with special needs and disabilities. As the noble Baronesses, Lady Murphy and Lady Thornton, reminded us, we need also to be mindful of the current court case.
At this stage, I repeat and underline our commitment to make progress and to offer the best possible protection for this group of vulnerable young people. Proper scrutiny and detailed thought is required, and that thought is ongoing. I recognise the arguments for including this group. Like all noble Lords, I want to make sure we get this right and get the interactions right, so that they do not end up being fixed subsequently by the courts, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pointed out in a different context.
Our intention is to use the time between now and Report to continue having those discussions, both with noble Lords and with stakeholders throughout the sector, to make sure we can get this right. On that basis, having given the commitment that we will work hard to do what we can between now and Report to get the right outcome, I hope the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, the essence of this amendment is about language and use of language—in particular, the term “unsound mind”. I think we would all agree that language is important; it sends very important signals. Many noble Lords raised this point with passion at the Second Reading debate. I was pleased that the Minister’s helpful letter of
The fact remains that, despite growing awareness and acceptance of mental illness, stigma and discrimination remain a regular experience of people with mental illnesses and their families and can put people off seeking help. We were given to understand that the use of the term “unsound mind” within the Bill was to ensure that it was in line with the ECHR—but this was written in the 1950s. Many people, both inside this Chamber and outside, have expressed serious concerns about the inclusion of this language in the Bill in 2018. Frankly, it perpetuates very unhelpful negative stereotypes. I would contend that the phrase “unsound mind” is out of place in today’s society; it is out of place in legislation being looked at in 2019; it is stigmatising and has no clear clinical meaning; indeed, I would say it is offensive to many.
Therefore, my amendment proposes that, in paragraph 2(2)(c) of Schedule 1 to the Bill, the term “is of unsound mind” is replaced by “has any disorder or disability of the mind”. This terminology is already a well-established term in the Mental Capacity Act and has proven to be compliant with the ECHR without, in my view, having anything like the same stigmatising connotations of “unsound mind”. A disorder or disability of the mind, I am informed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has a clear clinical meaning. It is well understood by clinicians and should be no more stigmatising than saying someone has a physical disability.
I am aware that the BMA, which supports not using the term “of unsound mind”, has put forward a proposition that this term should be reconsidered and experts and patient groups consulted to find an alternative to it. The BMA may be right, but I felt that, for my starter for 10, I wanted to put forward terminology that I thought was right. I am sure that others will be able to improve on it.
To conclude, above all this Bill must put the people most affected centre stage—that means some of the most vulnerable people in society, as we have already heard. In my view, it is simply not good enough to continue using terms that lawyers and drafters of legislation may find helpful—it might help them fit things in with other bits of legislation and other conventions—but which causes harm and distress to those we are all trying to help. I believe there is a real and welcome opportunity to change the narrative and discourse in a positive way, and this amendment is a way of taking that opportunity.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to support this amendment. Language is crucial. Several times during the day I question whether I am of sound mind, and I think that the concept of unsound mind is extremely dubious. I welcome the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, because it seeks focus and clarity, substituting for “is of unsound mind” the words,
“has any disorder or disability of the mind”.
I believe that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has supported this approach. The BMA also suggests that there should be a different approach because the term “unsound mind” reinforces stigma and discrimination, and equally it is outdated. Its continued use merely perpetuates negative stereotypes of vulnerable people, particularly when we are trying to get over those stereotypes in order to get people to speak more openly at the beginning of their problems—our problems—with mental health issues. Therefore, it is a pleasure to support this amendment.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, has produced a perfectly adequate descriptor which would substitute perfectly well for “unsound mind”. We always face this difficulty in discussing terms that relate to stigmatised disorders. We have to keep changing the language to keep it up to date and to refresh people’s thinking about what we are dealing with. “Unsound mind” went out in the 1960s and 1970s—I do not think that I have ever diagnosed anybody as being of unsound mind—and we must now have an alternative. We do not need the convenience of it remaining as it was back in the 1950s. Therefore, I support the descriptor given by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler. It is a very good one. We have used it before and it would be perfectly adequate. Let us ditch “unsound mind”.
My Lords, I shall not detain the Committee for long but it is important to recap on a bit of history. The original legislation that came before your Lordships’ House on this issue—the Mental Incapacity Bill—was subject to the first ever pre-legislative scrutiny. In going through that then very innovative procedure, Members of this House and another place did a couple of things which at that time were game-changing. One was that we invited people who lacked capacity to come and give evidence to us. But we went further than that. When we produced our report, we invited them back to discuss with them what we had listened to and what we had changed. One of the first and most important things that we did was to change the title from the Mental Incapacity Bill to the Mental Capacity Bill. We also, for the first time ever, produced an easy-read version of a Bill.
I strongly support my noble friend Lady Tyler because this feels like a real regression in thinking. I understand that the term is there because somebody somewhere believes that it has a legal meaning. We came up against those same arguments all those years ago and this House led the way in getting lawyers and counsel to change their minds. I do not see a reason for us not to do the same again.
I wish to add one point. I vividly remember listening to the people whom we invited back to talk to us after we had produced our report. At this point, there were only Members of your Lordships’ House in the room—the Commons were busy and had not turned up. I remember one particular gentleman who said, “When I first saw this, I thought it was really rubbish, but actually you’ve done quite a good job”. I have to say that in all my years in your Lordships’ House I do not think that I have ever received a more sincere accolade. That is not to belittle anybody’s contribution to this, but I think that my noble friend has made a very strong point.
These Benches support the amendment. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and others have said, the reference to unsoundness of mind is offensive to those with learning disabilities, dementia and brain injuries and their families. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, has just demolished all the legal arguments for including the phrase in the Bill, and indeed a lot of organisations, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, say that it out of place in today’s society. The GMC argues that it is not clear what added protection or benefit is achieved by using the term. VoiceAbility says that “unsound mind” is not used in modern psychiatry and that it could lead to debate in disputes. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will be as agreeable about this amendment as he was about the last one.
I do hate to disappoint. I thank the noble Baronesses for introducing this point. We discussed it at Second Reading and I have huge sympathy with the concerns about this kind of language. Frankly, it is not the kind of language that we use. As the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, pointed out, she has not diagnosed anyone as being of unsound mind for decades. It is a throwback and we are in the process of destigmatising mental health issues, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, pointed out. That is an endeavour that we are engaged in earnestly together. However, it is important to distinguish between the operational language used in care and the language used in the courts, and I want to discuss that.
This is not just about semantics; it is about terms that have established legal precedent and a jurisprudence based on their interpretation. It is worth discussing the consequences of deviating from a term that is in current use because of its role and the fact that the phrase is used in the European Convention on Human Rights. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, pointed out, the term has not changed since the 1950s and the creation of the ECHR, and it has subsequently been used by the Strasbourg court. There is a risk, and it is worth recognising, even if it is one that noble Lords might be prepared to contemplate. The risk is that a different expression such as the one proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler—it is a perfectly reasonable starter for 10, as I think she called it—could create a gap for some people who need access to liberty protection safeguards but do not meet the criteria of having a disorder or disability of mind, although they would have met the criteria of unsound mind.
It is important to note that the Law Commission used this language. We have been accused of deviating from the Law Commission Bill but it used this language and we have copied it to ensure that the liberty protection safeguards are compliant with the ECHR and that there is no gap with people not being covered. This could include people with learning disabilities, brain disorders or disorders of consciousness. In essence, the problem here is not this Bill. In a way, the Bill has a problem because of the language that has not been changed since its creation in the ECHR.
Therefore, although I agree with the sentiment behind the amendment, new terminology would risk creating a gap for people between the ECHR and this proposed law, and we are all concerned to avoid such gaps. Any gap would require people to have recourse, instead, to the Court of Protection. Therefore, it is not the case that people would have no recourse; they would have recourse to the Court of Protection, but we know that the people being cared for and their families and carers can find that an intimidating and difficult process.
It is also important to note that the Court of Appeal has indicated that some people with certain forms of learning disability might not be considered mentally disordered under the definition put forward by the noble Baroness but would still be considered of unsound mind for the purposes of the convention. That is another reason why there is a risk of a gap. For example, there is a particular risk that some individuals with brain injuries, or certain disorders of consciousness, might fall within the gap.
At Second Reading I did say, earnestly, absolutely and honestly, that I wanted to take this away and consider it, because of the frankly unsatisfactory nature of the term when it comes to modern practice. We have also listened to the contributions of a range of stakeholders—a number of people are of course very interested in this, and not just in this House—and to the contributions of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to see whether it is possible to use better language. I know this is not something the House will welcome, but I have concluded that, although the term is regrettable, there is a risk in using alternative language of creating a gap. Between those who would be captured under the definition suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler—or, indeed, potentially any other definition—and those currently captured under the terminology “of unsound mind”—
I really struggle to understand where these gaps might fall. For example, these people who have brain damage, which gives rise to a mental disorder, or people who have transient episodes of epilepsy, which might lead to some fugue state—would they not also be included in mental disorder, under the definition suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler? I cannot see where these gaps might arise. Have they been identified by psychiatrists? If we look through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the International Classification of Diseases, if you prefer, I cannot understand where these gaps might arise.
If the real purpose is to ensure protection under the Human Rights Act for those we are concerned about, has the Minister considered whether that might not be achieved merely by stating that the category of people we are looking at should have the benefit of the relevant section of the Human Rights Act? When I say the Human Rights Act, I mean the convention.
The Human Rights Act was in force when the Mental Capacity Act was being debated. During the passage of that Act we considered very carefully what language we should use. Is the Minister saying that we got that wrong, and have there been cases of people who have fallen into the gap? If so, how many are there, and can he give the evidence by which the Government arrived at the conclusion they have now?
It might be complex to find the right nomenclature, but I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, say that this was a starter for 10. I cannot see why we have to regress to 1959 language in the Mental Health Act without further exploration of whether we could redefine the term about perhaps affecting the mind, to take in that very small minority of people with severe physical illness that occasionally affects the mind. We have worked so hard to destigmatise both learning disability and mental health that it seems very sad that we cannot work a bit harder at this point on this issue.
I want to reaffirm the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. Surely it is not beyond the wit of drafters and our legal experts, when referring to the starter for 10 offered by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, to refer to the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence arising from the European Court of Human Rights? It seems to me that it is elegantly simple to take such an approach, reassuring the rights that relate to the “unsound mind” in relation to the new definition offered. I hope my intervention makes sense—it is not often best practice to speak on the hoof on such legal matters. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I have not made sense.
I am glad that we have had a subsequent opportunity to discuss this. I would like once again to restate that I personally, and government Ministers, officials and others, do not find this comfortable language. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, did not mean it this way, but this is absolutely not a case of trying to take us back to the 1950s. In proceeding with this legislation, we have to make sure that people who currently get protection do not lose it. I know that we all agree that we do not want that to happen. If you like, that is the goal; the law is the means, if I may say so to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. The key is making sure that we have the terminology that will reflect that we do not want people falling through the gap. It is perfectly reasonable to ask, “What is the nature of this gap?”
The Court of Appeal in G v E said that a gap would arise. Our understanding and advice from lawyers is that current case law indicates that there might be individuals—I do not have specific details of the kind of conditions from which those people might be suffering. It is worth pointing out that the Court of Protection also uses the term “unsound mind” at the moment. It is a term that is clearly operable in a legal context but which has become inoperable in a medical context. That is the challenge we face and which we have explored in this discussion and at Second Reading.
We have given this very careful consideration. We need to be incredibly conscious of not creating that gap. However, I also understand that noble Lords would like to see more evidence of two things. First, there is the reality of the gap: who, what kinds of people and what situations? That is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. Secondly, has there been further exploration of alternatives to what we all agree is an outmoded and regrettable phrase? I am absolutely prepared to commit to do that between now and Report, because I share noble Lords’ intentions that we should make sure both that we move with the times and that we do not remove protections from people currently entitled to them or who would have been entitled to them in the future. On that basis, I hope the noble Baroness might be prepared to move on from her starter for 10 and withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for his response, particularly the last bit, which I found a tiny bit more reassuring. I thank everyone who has contributed. It has been an excellent short debate and we have benefited hugely from highly distinguished medical and legal expertise.
I understand that the Minister may have concerns around risks and gaps, but we need—and he has agreed to bring forward—examples and evidence of what these gaps and risks are and why they could not be dealt with by language that is perhaps slightly different from that which I proposed. There is a huge opportunity to be seized here. I have made it very clear that the wording I propose may well not be quite right. I am sure that others could come up with better wording that meets the Minister’s concerns, which I understand are legitimate. I am grateful that he said he will think further and come back with further evidence. I should like to put down a marker that I will wish to return to this on Report.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Moved by Baroness Murphy
4: Schedule 1, page 6, line 4, at end insert “, and(d) if living in a care home or supported accommodation, meets any one of the following conditions—(i) is under continuous supervision and is not permitted to leave the premises on their own, or(ii) is subject to the use of physical barriers to limit their access to particular areas, or(iii) is subject to the use of force, including physical, mechanical or chemical restraint, or(iv) is subject to constant close observation and surveillance.”
My Lords, we have come to what I regard as the most important and possibly stickiest, most difficult issue that we face. It addresses the reason why we are all here today with a new Bill to try to solve the problem of the old one, which did not work. Why did the old DoLS not work? Because they were overbureaucratic, very expensive—we are talking about £2 billion a year and this is cheaper at £300 million, although someone said to me that this costing business is rather a science fiction at the moment—could not be implemented and were predicated on a judgment in Cheshire West that extended the previously accepted notion of deprivation of liberty. I wanted to have a first go at introducing a restricted definition of what constitutes deprivation of liberty for the purposes of this Bill.
I am primarily concerned not about the cost, but the risk. When tens of thousands of people are subjected to a procedure, those whose circumstances really need scrutiny and review—because they themselves or their families or professional carers are objecting to their care or placement—are not receiving the focus and energy of the safeguarding process because they are simply lost in the morass of processing so many cases. Already we know that the tick-box mentality has pervaded the existing procedures, and that is not because the people who are trying to implement them have not been doing their best. There are not enough of them. They are trying to rush around with a list as long as your arm and they cannot get through it.
I had heard that there are now 140,000 unassessed cases, although I think the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, mentioned 106,000. Noble Lords should think how long that list would take to deal with. With a mean length of stay in residential care of two years from admission to death, many elderly people with dementia—who, after all, are being cared for because of a terminal illness—will never be assessed before the great final assessment. By the way, I only hope that when they encounter Saint Peter at the pearly gates they do not find that a specially approved angel has been designated to assess whether heaven is in their best interests or not—it is quite possible. To return to more serious matters, it is crucial that we reduce the numbers that will be scrutinised by this system so that those who are truly at risk of abuse or of receiving less than adequate care are better safeguarded.
Of course, we could wait for another case to come before the Supreme Court for the penny to drop, but Parliament should surely provide a statutory definition of what constitutes deprivation of liberty in the case of those who lack capacity, in order to clarify the application of the Supreme Court’s acid test and bring clarity for families and frontline professionals. There is a risk that the Law Commission’s proposals—the safeguard principles have much merit—will become unworkable both in the domestic sphere, where we have hardly started to take people into the system, and with the potential expansion of the scheme into domestic care settings, which will become exceedingly invasive and difficult to operate. And that is in the context of care homes and joint living arrangements that are not being adequately met.
“nobody using ordinary language would describe persons living happily in a domestic setting … as being deprived of their liberty”.
In their evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Sir Nicholas Mostyn and Sir William Charles, retired Family Court judges, submitted that the proposed liberty protection safeguards are based on an acid test in which the starting point is legally wrong, and should be revisited. Sir Nicholas noted that,
“no case from Strasbourg has come close to saying that the case of someone of ‘unsound mind’ (as Article 5 puts it) falls within the terms of that article if they are being looked after in their own home”.
Further, he argued that,
“it is surely vanishingly unlikely that Strasbourg would disagree with the narrower test”,
that used to be used. He said that,
“it is after all completely consistent with its jurisprudence, which mandates a fact sensitive approach and which looks at the range of factors such as the intensity of the restrictions in question”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights agreed with that point and introduced in its report the case of Mark Neary. I will not go into that case now because of shortness of time, but a number of cases were described where people were clearly being deprived of their liberty and families could not understand why it was happening. The new definition from Cheshire West cast a very wide net, capturing people who were content and those who had expressed de facto consent, albeit not valid consent for the purpose of the law. That has led to incredible family distress—people felt that their loved ones were being deprived of their liberty as a result of care plans—as well as resource issues. It sits at odds with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which emphasises respecting the autonomy and wishes of those with disabilities.
The question is whether an amendment could be introduced to solve this problem. The Scottish Government gave some thought to amending their own Act and suggested a number of principles that might be followed. First, if a regime looks like detention, it does not lose that characteristic just because the person does not display opposition. Secondly, if a regime does not look like detention but the adult displays opposition to staying there, that should be considered as placing significant restrictions on a person’s liberty. Thirdly, a person may be perfectly content to move to another place of residence, but may not agree with aspects of their care, which amounts to a significant restriction on their liberty. Fourthly, a person may remain in the same residential setting, but become subject to changes in aspects of their care that mean they become subject to significant restrictions on their liberty. We often see that in care homes where people are moved from a general unit to a specialist unit for dementia, or to an elderly mental care unit when they become “unmanageable”, with quite serious restrictions placed on them.
A person may be considered as having significant restrictions if: the adult is under continuous supervision and control and is not free to leave the premises; barriers are used to limit the adult to particular areas of premises; or the adult’s actions are controlled by physical force or the use of restraints, by the administering of medication for that purpose or by close observation and surveillance, which can be very intrusive. However, measures applicable to all residents in a given place that are intended to facilitate ordinary, proper management of the premises, such as security cameras at the front door and front door locks—the sort of things we might have in our own homes—should not necessarily be regarded as restricting liberty.
It is crucial that the first principle of the Mental Capacity Act be paramount in any decision. Whenever possible, a mentally incapacitated person should be listened to and their wishes respected. While short-term memory may be seriously diminished, the individual often still recognises the people around them and can express a wish. Where there is a clear agreement between an adult, their family and professional carers, I believe the state should keep its legislative nose out. This may not be the right amendment, and I look forward to listening to others whose ideas are also contained in amendments tabled in this group, but it seems we should concentrate our resources on those who are really at risk, where we are confident that we have the resources to concentrate training and interest on a smaller group.
I have another amendment in this group, which is slightly off the point, so I am going to do it very quickly and turn away in order that we can concentrate on this criteria business. I wanted originally to add a new principle to the Mental Capacity Act with the deprivation of liberty safeguard to say that we should be doing nothing to intervene in an individual’s freedom without a clear indication that it will be beneficial to them. I wanted to add a new principle. If somebody does something that is beneficial to something, it is different from being in their best interests. Does it do them any good? So far we have DoLS implemented with huge bureaucracy, which has done nobody any good. For maybe one in five of the people subject to DoLS procedures it has at least come to scrutinise their care. But that has not happened all that much; it has been a procedure that has been done largely on paper from a series of tick boxes and cursory examinations. It seems to me that, if we are to implement any legislation that intervenes in this bureaucratic fashion, we must be absolutely clear that what we are doing is beneficial to the individual who is subject to it.
I was told that I could not put a new principle into the Mental Capacity Act—that this was not the Bill to do it—so I am going to leave it at that point and just say that I tabled this amendment and it was slipped into this group. I am not expecting anybody to support it, but I hope that I will gather some support for restricting the criteria for the definition of a deprivation of liberty, in order that we can make the Bill fully workable and manageable for the people who really need it. In a perfect world, it would not be necessary. If we had loads of money, and thousands of assessors, legal experts and social workers involved, we might do it. Under our current and likely future resources, we cannot do it, so we should do the best we can with the resources we have and concentrate them on trying to improve the care of people who really need it. I beg to move.
My Lords, there is always a risk in your Lordships’ House when an amateur follows a professional. I feel that I have a bit of a starter-for-10 moment as well, because both the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, and I tabled similar amendments, Amendments 4 and 5, to achieve the same sort of aim. I could take noble Lords through my arguments, which again are similar to hers, but time is of the essence, so it might be worth putting both of them before the Minister to ask whether the Government would consider bringing back an amendment that would put a clear definition of deprivation of liberty in the Bill. There has been a lot of pressure from various parts of the sector for this to happen. At the moment, only case law gives an indication of deprivation of liberty, so to have something in the Bill would be helpful.
My Lords, I have an amendment in this group that does not sit terribly well with the first two—but so be it. I will be brief. These attempts to define a deprivation of liberty are nobly submitted, but I worry about potential unintended consequences from the wording. I will not go through them in detail, but I hope that the Minister will assure us that this is something we can take away and look at. One difficulty is that one person’s imprisonment—a deprivation of liberty—might not be a deprivation of liberty to another, so this may be very personal in some aspects.
On Amendment 81 in relation to a “vital act”, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, will take reassurance from me—I do not know whether the Minister will agree with this or not—that anything done must be in a person’s best interest. Part of that is that it is a benefit and not a burden—or it may be a burden, but the benefits outweigh the burden. That has to be a fundamental principle in clinical decision-making.
The reason I tabled Amendment 82, which relates to an urgent authorisation, is that, looking through, I was concerned about unintended consequences from the way the legislation was written. I could see two, possibly—but they may be misplaced anxieties. First, in a true emergency situation, as a consultant in emergency medicine said to me, you just get on and do what you have to do. You do not go and look at paperwork. So, in an emergency situation, you may have to restrict somebody’s liberty to do what you have to do, which is in their best interest. You do not do something that is not in their best interest—and the last thing we want to do is impose any more bureaucracy or paperwork.
So I suggest that, possibly in the code of practice and not in the Bill, it should be clear that an urgent authorisation is an authorisation to begin longer-term care, but in an acute situation, in a clinical decision, nobody would expect people to even begin this process until we get to about 48 hours. I say that because a clinical decisions unit will normally have people staying in it for under 24 hours, as they may even on an acute medical ward, before being moved to a longer-term in-patient unit where their longer-term care may be assessed. Of course, we have people who have a transiently impaired capacity because of illness and the treatment of that will restore their capacity, such as the diabetic whose diabetes is out of control through either hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia, and things such as hypocalcaemia as well. None of those should be included.
The concern at the other end was that an urgent authorisation could be used for example to take a confused person with advanced dementia where care at home had completely collapsed. Possibly their main carer at home had suddenly been admitted to hospital. They would then have to be moved into a nursing home placement at great speed, but that may not be what they want and they cannot consent to it. They would have to be moved to that place, be in a placement and be assessed there. There needs to be some time limit so that this cannot linger on for months or years, with somebody saying, “Oh, well, they are here under an urgent authorisation”, rather than a longer-term authorisation. That is why I tabled the amendment. I accept that it is not perfect, but I hope it is something we can look at. It may be that the code of practice can clarify those issues.
I have added my name to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, precisely because I thought we needed to have this discussion. That was exactly right. I would hate to choose between the two amendments, but this sets out when deprivation of liberty occurs:
“Arrangements that give rise to a deprivation of … liberty”,
are when the cared-for person is placed,
“under continuous supervision and control”,
they are “not free to leave” and the responsible body believes that it is in the cared-for person’s “best interests”. That is worth putting on the face of the Bill if at all possible.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights made a strong argument in favour of a statutory definition. I read its report and it seems absolutely right that that is what we should do. I would be interested to hear what one of the lawyers in our midst might have to say about this: whether they think that it would be a useful thing to do and whether the stabs we have made at it so far are helpful. We are interested in this discussion but we realise that this is the beginning of the discussion rather than something that may be appropriate right now.
When listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talking about her amendment, it occurred to me that this is one of those occasions when technology is important. When you have an emergency admission, you need to be able to input the name of the person into a PalmPilot, which will tell you whether a DoLS is already in place and whether a do not resuscitate order has been made. Recently I have had experience of exactly this situation with a family member. Because the information was not readily available in an emergency, we ended up where we did not want to be. I just add that to the debate because I know that the Minister and his boss are very interested in technology and its uses in the health service. This is another of those occasions where it might be useful.
Perhaps I may respond by giving one lawyer’s view on the matter referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. I should put on the record that I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and therefore was a party to the report, and of course I support it.
When the opportunity arises to deal with a situation where it is clear that a decision of the Supreme Court has had consequences which may never have been anticipated, it would sometimes be helpful if the judges had the opportunity to look at the matter again. If the sort of steps so ably advocated by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, were taken, I would suggest that serious consideration should be given to them as they could have a beneficial effect from the pragmatic point of view as well as on the point of principle.
I am sorry, but I ought to have added that I have a relative who could be affected by this legislation, and I declare that.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken to their amendments, which have produced this discussion on the application of the liberty protection safeguards. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, said that this goes to the heart of why we are here in the first place. I know that she has long-standing concerns about the DoLS system both in its application and the scenarios where it may or may not be appropriate, to whom it should best be applied and so on. I know that that is what has motivated her attempt in this amendment. She and others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, have said that this is the start of a process.
The first amendment in the name of the noble Baroness addresses the circumstances in which the authorisations could be given in a care home or supported accommodation environment, and people deprived of their liberty as interpreted in the Cheshire West case. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, pointed out as a member of the committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has recommended introducing a statutory definition of the deprivation of liberty in its report The Right to Freedom and Safety: Reform of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. I can tell him and all noble Lords that we are considering its findings closely. Many noble Lords have expressed a desire, whether in the form set out in the amendments in this group or otherwise, to explore the possibility of including a statutory definition in the Bill. Following this discussion, that is something I should like to consider further. It is worth stating, however, that there are risks in doing so because it means that to change a definition requires primary legislation. Noble Lords are much more knowledgeable about and aware of those risks than I am, but nevertheless it is something that warrants further consideration.
I am also sympathetic to the sentiment expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, about the state involving itself unnecessarily in family and private life while also being mindful of making sure, as we all are, that individuals are not denied the safeguards they need and that we are complying with our obligations under Article 5 of the ECHR. The effect of her amendment would be to limit the circumstances in which arrangements giving rise to deprivation of liberty in a care home or in supported accommodation can be authorised under the liberty protection safeguards, but of course that would mean that such arrangements would still have to be authorised by the Court of Protection. We have already discussed how that can be burdensome and expensive for families. It is for that reason that domestic arrangements were included in the deprivation of liberty safeguards. Given that, while in general I would like to have a further discussion around definitions, there is a problem with the definition that the noble Baroness has provided because of its application in that case.
I am sure it will be and I look forward to seeing it.
As she pointed out, the noble Baroness has a second amendment which makes the point that the steps taken to deprive a person of liberty, life-sustaining treatment or a vital act should be of benefit to that person, and of course we all agree with that. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, pointed out, before any authorisation is made or arrangements take effect, a decision will first need to be taken that the care or treatment is in the person’s best interests in accordance with Section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It is important to note that this amending Bill does not change it, so that will continue to be true if the Bill before us in this House is taken forward as it stands. The legislation is already clear that if actions are taken to deprive someone of their liberty in these situations, it must be to the benefit of the cared-for person. That was at the heart of the amendment spoken to by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jolly and Lady Thornton, so I want to take this opportunity to say that that provision continues to exist because the best interests test foreruns the subsequent necessary and proportionate test, which we will explore in a subsequent group.
On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, about limiting the time for the duration of authorisation of the steps necessary for life-sustaining treatment or vital acts, the intention, as she will know better than me, is to move consideration of the deprivation of liberty to earlier in the planning stage. Nevertheless, there will be cases where it needs to be applied in an emergency situation. I do not need to bring that to light because other noble Lords have done so. Her amendment, which I think is probing, would require authorisations to be renewed every seven days. She will know that there are limited periods at the moment, but unfortunately they are not always adhered to. If we are honest, they can become a target rather than a limit, and I think that is what is happening. We need to make sure that we have a system which gives providers greater clarity but does so in a way that is more sophisticated than could be achieved in legislation. I therefore agree with her that the code of practice is the right vehicle for that because it will be able to outline the different circumstances and scenarios and thus give a much richer picture of the kind of situations and principles that ought to be considered.
This has been a very useful debate and, as I have said, I should like to take some time between now and Report to consider the opinion expressed by noble Lords and in the report of the Joint Committee about the benefits of a statutory definition. Having started that discussion, which is obviously the phrase of the evening, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his positive response to the ideas if not to the amendments themselves. We will return to this at the Report stage, as he has said, and I hope that we may have forthcoming from those associated with the Joint Committee on Human Rights some support at that point for the further debates in this area. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Amendments 5 and 6 not moved.
My Lords, Amendments 7 and 8 in my name are yet another attempt to make some sense of this Bill. Perhaps they might not have been tabled had we been able to have more discussion over the Recess. As several noble Lords have already mentioned, there has been considerable disquiet about the non-appearance of best interest assessments in this Bill. Indeed, a number of noble Lords attempted to table amendments that, at the very least, like this amendment, were trying to probe where the best interests of the cared-for person would come into play.
This particular part of the Bill—Part 2 of Schedule 1 —is on “Authorisation of arrangements”. In putting down these probing amendments, I was particularly taken by the briefing given to us by the Law Society, which suggested:
“Remove the distinction between the ‘arrangements’ and ‘care and treatment’ as it will result in difficulties when applied in practice. For example, how would a person’s capacity to make medical treatment decisions or decisions about contact with others be distinguished from decisions about the ‘arrangements’ to provide that treatment or to prevent contact with others?”.
In light of that, at the very least we ought to be asking the Minister how this is going to work. I accept a number of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, about the clumsiness of the existing DoLS procedure, but the removal of best interest assessors is one that has caused a fair degree of disquiet among the different groups.
Amendments 7 and 8 are also meant to begin to probe a key provision in the Bill—the assertion that the arrangements need to be “necessary and proportionate”. There is no further explanation in the Bill about what the term “necessary and proportionate” might mean, who will make the decision and on what basis it will be judged and reviewed. This goes back to some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that, given the increased role— let us say that—of care home managers, they will be making the assessments of what is necessary and proportionate.
No doubt I am going to be told that these amendments are either deficient or unnecessary, but they are here to begin to probe some very unclear but key parts of the Bill about the authorisation of arrangements. In that vein, I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the principle behind Amendment 8 in particular. Perhaps this is something the Minister will want to view as going in the code of practice, as I am not sure that putting this on the face of the Bill is necessarily the right place for it—although I completely understand the sentiment, which is to avoid serious risk. We live in a risk-averse system, and it is serious risk that we must be concerned with.
A case that I heard about in the last few days came to mind. An elderly lady with dementia became extremely agitated when it snowed. Because of her tendency to wander, she was not going outside unescorted. A conversation with her son revealed that she had been a meteorologist, so her view was that when it snowed she had to go outside and measure the depth of the snow and telephone the Meteorological Office. What they did was simply wrap her up really well, let her go out and measure the depth of the snow, give her a telephone and let her make a mock phone call to the Meteorological Office. She was very calm and happy. You do not want her to go wandering because she is near a main road and a railway line and all the other risks, but it was not a serious risk to let her out in the garden, well-wrapped up when it was snowing. That illustrates the granularity of the need to take appropriate decisions focused around the individual person.
Other cases that do concern me are those people who will become sexually disinhibited when exposed to great temptation. That struck me about a case I came across in a home for people with a history of sexual offences. There had been a DoLS in place for somebody not to go unescorted through woodland because, if he came across a young girl on her own in woodland, his sexual drive would overcome his rational behaviour—exposure to porn sites would also overcome his rational behaviour. However, the rest of the time, he could live well. Sadly, that DoLS was apparently overturned by the Court of Protection and, within weeks, he offended and ended up being imprisoned for his offence, but he had been living well with an enormous degree of freedom prior to that point. I think that the serious risk to the cared-for person has to be considered, because there the risk to him was that he would offend and, sadly, that came true.
I hope that the Minister will look sympathetically on the sentiment behind this.
My Lords, my Amendments 27 and 28 follow the same lines of argument that we have heard from the noble Baronesses but relate to paragraph 16, “Determination that arrangements are necessary and proportionate”, on page 12 of the Bill.
I know the Minister will refer us back to Section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act, which is very comprehensive in defining what “best interests” are. Clearly, the intention is that, because it is stated there as a principle at the front of the Act, that permeates through all of the issues that we will be discussing in this amendment Bill. There is always an issue when you have an amendment Bill. It is not incorporated in the principal Act and is quite difficult to follow. It will be difficult to follow for the practitioners who are going to have to operate the new provisions. This must relate, too, to the code of practice. We seek certain reassurances that it will be made clear to the people at the front line who are going to operate it that the best interests provisions in this amendment Bill will apply equally.
What is confusing is the wording “necessary and proportionate”. In a sense, the Government are saying there is a qualification—that things have to be necessary and proportionate. I wonder whether that is helpful. It is confusing that we have a qualification of necessary and proportionate, but in the principal Act it is “best interests”. Clearly, these are probing amendments, seeking to tease this issue out, but I wonder whether the Government could give further consideration to how we can ensure that everyone involved is very clear that the best interests apply.
My Lords, at Second Reading I expressed the hope that the Government were in listening mood. They certainly needed to be. To be fair, the Minister and his team are to be congratulated on the level of engagement that they have been willing to participate in to help us perhaps make a better Bill at the end of the day. But—there is always a but—the Bill might have had a smoother passage if the Government had published an equality impact assessment. They are yet to do so; perhaps the Minister can tell us why. Many concerns have been expressed in debate on other amendments, which might have been assuaged—and we might have made more progress—had such an assessment been available to us.
As things stand, it is up to the legislature—today, that task falls to Members of this House—to persuade the Government to think again and strengthen the Bill. If the Bill is about a single issue, it is putting the quality of life of the cared-for person above all other considerations. Their wishes and feelings must be integral to the purpose and operation of the legislation. Legislation of this nature does not lend itself readily to piloting and being trialled in different parts of the country to test its capacity to deliver, but it will need an implementation strategy, full and necessary resources and a code of practice so that we have clear objectives that can be measured and tested against outcomes.
Amendments 7 and 8, so ably proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, help to fulfil my point about the cared-for person’s best interests. Even the most casual observer of our proceedings this evening would see that the amendments are common sense—although I remember my late mother’s warning when she told me that I would find in life that sense was not that common.
At Second Reading and in discussions with officials, I and other noble Lords expressed concern about the apparent removal of the individual’s best interests from an authorisation. If I understand the Government’s position, I think they believe that the best interests assessment is catered for in Sections 1 and 4 of the Mental Capacity Act, but I am not alone in believing that the assessment would be general in relation to an individual’s overall care and not necessarily assess whether the deprivation of liberty was in their best interests. The schedule presents itself as a comprehensive test for authorisation. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suggest that it will be seen as the entire process that needs to be followed. The Government have said that they expect a best interests decision to be made, but this is not reflected in the Bill. Therefore, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, largely reflects the Government’s stated policy and should be accepted.
It is also important that an individual’s best interests are considered in relation to both the decision to deprive them of their liberty and their overall care. This will ensure proper consideration of whether their care arrangements are the best and least restrictive possible. Amendment 7 simply adds best interests as a step in the overall authorisation. Arrangements will still need to be necessary and proportionate, considering the whole situation balanced against someone’s best interests. Amendment 27, in the names of my noble friends Lord Hunt and Lady Thornton, would ensure that the best interests test assessment remains in force; Amendment 28 adds weight to that.
In summary, the amendments ensure that the wishes and feelings of the person concerned, if ascertained, must be reflected in any decision about their care. If any one of us or anyone in our families were in such a situation, would we not want that for ourselves and them?
I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate for their desire to be brief, which I know was shared by others who have not been part of the discussions on the Bill, but it is also important to be comprehensive in discussing these issues because, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, the best interests of the people being cared for is what this is all about.
I know that this is an issue for noble Lords; it was raised at Second Reading and has been raised again in this debate. It is important to state that best interests decision-making for care and treatment remains fundamental to the Mental Capacity Act. In a way, it is the founding stone around which the rest is built. The liberty protection safeguards sit under the aegis of the Act. The Bill does not change that. One request made by noble Lords at Second Reading was for us to publish the Act as amended by the Bill. We have done that; I understand that it is in the Library. I can make sure that a digital copy is circulated, and I will make sure that it is sent to all concerned. Clearly, understanding the flow of how it is read in not just legislation but the code of practice is critical. I want to make that clear and I understand that important desire.
Under the current system, there are two different best interests tests: one exists under Section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act—the decision, usually made by a clinician, to provide care or treatment—and a second, separate, additional one falls within the tests required for the DoLS system. The Law Commission recommended that the DoLS tests be replaced with a necessary and proportionate test. In that sense, we are following where it led. Prior to a liberty protection safeguards authorisation being considered, the decision will need to be taken, normally by a clinician, that the care or treatment enabled by the arrangements is in the person’s best interests. As I said, that will apply under Section 4. Subsequently, it must be demonstrated that the arrangements to enable that care and treatment are necessary and proportionate. Of course, that is the single test applied by the liberty protection safeguards; it is a secondary test following a consideration of best interests.
The current requirement that the deprivation of liberty must be necessary, proportionate and in the person’s best interests is instead replaced by a single, primary best interests test in an attempt to avoid confusion and conflict—the word used by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, at the beginning of the debate—between two determinations. The focus of the second-stage test on what is necessary and proportionate is an attempt to remove this confusion. It is not an attempt to downgrade in any way the primary and prior importance of a person’s best interests being taken into consideration.
As well as giving that assurance, I want to pick up on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, that avoiding risk to the cared-for person will form part of the necessary and proportionate test. There is already a principle in the Mental Capacity Act to use less intrusive arrangements, which will continue to remain, unamended, an important principle in the new model. As was brought to light by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and other noble Lords, the application of “necessary and proportionate” requires a degree of granularity that makes it difficult to overdetermine in legislation, and that is the reason why the code of practice is so important. That is why it will contain a range of scenarios, principles, circumstances and so on of what the application of a necessary and proportionate test should look like.
I hope that I have been able to assure noble Lords, whose considerations I take very seriously, that best interests are foremost in our minds and will remain so in the legislation, unamended by the changes brought in by the Bill. Clearly, I want to make sure that this sentiment and its legal power are understood by all concerned, particularly if there is concern in the wider sector. As I said, I do not believe that a second test is necessary; as said by the Law Commission, it could be counterproductive. It is important that we make sure of a clear understanding of the primacy of the best interests test. I would like to explore that with noble Lords to make sure that it is properly understood by all; we can do that between now and Report. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for his helpful response. As we begin to get to the heart of the debate, he will understand that he and the Bill team can perhaps see the Bill as a whole, but the rest of us are struggling to do so. Therefore, we have to test individual elements of it, perhaps to a greater degree than he may think is warranted. None the less, it was helpful of him to put those statements on record. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 7 withdrawn.
Amendment 8 not moved.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.40 pm.